Before all of the A-List celebrities descend upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art tonight, the true star of this year’s Costume Institute exhibit, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, made a rare public appearance at its official morning opening. Kawakubo wasn’t the only designer in attendance, so was Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli and Thom Browne, partner of the institute’s chief curator Andrew Bolton. That turnout speaks to the importance of the exhibit, as Kawakubo is only the second living fashion designer to be honored with a career retrospective here. The running theme of “in-between” comes from Kawakubo’s overarching design aesthetic, as captured in the catalog: “At the heart of her work are the koan mu (emptiness) and the related notion of ma (space), which coexist in the concept of the ‘in-between.’” The expansive collection of CDG pieces on display are broken into nine expressions of “in-betweenness,” including Absences/Presence; Fashion/Antifashion; Self/Other; and Clothes/Not Clothes. The space itself, with stark white walls and overhead illumination meant to cast both the pieces on display and the voyeur in the same light, allows Kawakubo’s designs to speak for themselves in all their radical, uncompromising glory. Click through for an early insider’s peek at the exhibit.